For the second straight game against a top-10 opponent, St. Frances' No. 1 girls basketball team needed a big second-half performance to pull off the win.
Behind strong inside performances from senior Mia Davis and freshman Angel Reese, the Panthers rallied from eight points down at the half to beat No. 2 McDonogh, 56-44, Friday night in a clash of the only undefeated teams in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference.
In the first half, visiting McDonogh used defense and quickness inside to score a lot of points in the paint despite a significant height disadvantage.
"McDonogh was doubling the inside while playing a man but playing back, and also they was hustling more than us and beating us back on fast breaks," Davis said. "Second half, we communicated better and rotated faster on close-outs."
Davis, an All-Metro forward who finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, scored 10 points in the third quarter as the Panthers (13-0, 4-0 IAAM) turned the game around.
The defending A Conference champion Panthers also trailed No. 6 Roland Park on Wednesday before taking control late in the third quarter for a 60-44 win.
"It just seems like we have a slow start, but the when we come back out in the second half we pick up," said Davis, one of only two returning starters for the Panthers. "We're starting to gain a little more chemistry, so we'll get it right."
In the rematch of last year's A Conference championship game, both teams won big in recent holiday tournaments. The Panthers won the Patsy Mink bracket of the Title IX Holiday Classic at the DC Armory with a 63-61 win over Eleanor Roosevelt. The Eagles won their bracket at the Governor's Challenge in Salisbury, winning the first game, 66-53, over defending Class 4A state champion Walt Whitman.
The Eagles (9-1, 3-1) took a 26-18 lead into halftime after Aleah Nelson nailed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer, but they couldn't carry the momentum into the second half.
Jatarrikah Settle hit a free throw for St. Frances to open the second half and Reese added a follow shot to cut the lead to 26-21. After McDonogh's Kayla Liles fed AJ Davis for a layup and Kolbi Green added a pair of free throws to give the Eagles their biggest lead of the game, 30-21, with 6:20 left in the quarter, the Panthers set off on a 19-7 run.
Delicia Pinnick gave St. Frances its first lead since 4-2 with an end-to-end runner and Nia Clouden added an off-balance transition layup to push the lead to 40-37 with 49 seconds left in the third quarter.
Liles ended the period with a McDonogh layup and Green, who led the Eagles with 17 points, opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer for a 42-40 Eagles lead, but they wouldn't score again for more than six minutes.
Reese, a 6-foor-2 freshman forward, scored six of her 13 points during an 11-0 run that boosted St. Frances' lead to 51-42 with 2:33 to go.
Liles' short jumper brought the Eagles within 51-44 with 1:27 remaining, but they couldn't catch up despite putting the Panthers on the free-throw line four times.
"We completely got away from doing what we do best: play defense. We gave up 38 points in the second half. We can't do that," McDonogh coach Brad Rees said. "Bad decisions, lot of dribbling, no passing … [but] basically we didn't defend well. We key off our defense and we did not defend well."
Next up for St. Frances is No. 12 John Carroll at home Monday.
The Eagles were scheduled to host and play in the Public vs. Private Challenge on Saturday, but the 20-game girls basketball mixer had to be postponed when several school systems, including Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties, canceled all Saturday activities because of an impending snow storm expected to hit hardest in Southern Maryland. McDonogh will host Mount Hebron on Tuesday.
M—Dixon 2, Nelson 9, Green 17, Liles 6, Jacobs 4, Davis 4, Booth 2. Totals 18 5-9 44.
SF—Davis 23, Settle 2, Reese 13, Clouden 4, Pinnick 10, Jackson 4. Totals 21 12-23 56. Half: M, 26-18.